Beet Poetry by Jack Pritchard

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The Beat Generation epitomised the bohemian culture of post-war America… the Beet Generation is here and now.

Jack Pritchard’s re-write of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, first performed at a fund-raising vegetable feast for a permacultural participatory video project in Nepal, December 2013. Jack and his hedonistic compatriots are the rising stars of Oxford’s Beet Poetry scene and can often be heard performing in the city’s underground literary salons.

Allen Ginsberg reading his poems to the crowd in Washington Square Park in 1966.
Allen Ginsberg reading his poems to the crowd in Washington Square Park in 1966.
“Beet Poetry”

I have seen the best veg of my germination destroyed by cooking:
carrots, beetroot, swedes; mashed with butter by angry chefs at dusk,
or grated and juiced by the illuminated machinery of kitchens
purple-headed onions burning in forgotten pans in neon-lit takeaways
and lettuce, turning, turning:
caught in the starry dynamo of the machinery of saladspinner.
Carrots, who curled, abandoned, on chopping boards; and leeks
who ran through streets in mad dreams screaming “celeriac! celeriac!”.
who rotted down on compost heaps
who sprouted in the supernatural dark of larders,
who were lost, beneath mouse-grey mould on ectoplasmic fridge-door shelves

who were rooted in the shadow of Didcot smokestacks
who cowered in terror under September squash-leaves
who tasted radiant cool flesh, of early-morning marrows
and who wept onion-tears as they contemplated
knifesteel, from hessian sacks and box-scheme crates:
who faced the peeler and the grater in insane fear of casserole
and nightmares of spilt beetrootblood, and gouged potato-eyes

who were macerated, blended, chopped; or marinated overnight with wine:
who leached their flavours into stock, or roasted crisp around the body of a duck
who dreamed of honey-glaze. Chillies,
who spilled their hot seed carelessly on formica worktops, and parsnips
too obscene for supermarket shelves: who were diced and boiled
for pasties and trapped inside the crescents of crusts, or
who found their place in cold cottage-pies

who were gently peeled, and chopped and sliced
with beetroot in the quiet of Oxford kitchens
who were dressed in oil in soft wooden spoonfuls:
who were served in bowls in cornerless rooms,
haunted by the echoes of verse and song
who shared their hearts with loving people,
who dream of broccoli forests and
who understand the power and the poetry
in these thin green stems.